Something that’s bummed me out lately is the fact that, due to budgetary constraints, very few television programs produced these days have live orchestras recording their soundtracks. The high quality of today’s synthesizers combined with their cheapness along with licensed music has all but destroyed the custom soundtrack shows used to get.
For instance, Futurama has returned with severely reduced pay for all. This means that the show has had its live orchestra replaced with synthesized music. To be fair to these guys, the synthesized stuff does sound pretty good, but it probably wouldn’t hold up much when listened to by itself. That’s part of the price you pay when moving to basic cable, I suppose.
Some of the few shows left that I can think of that still use live music on a regular basis is Seth MacFarlane’s shows. Family Guy, American Dad, and Cleveland Show all have music by Walter Murphy or Ron Jones. This is likely because MacFarlane insists on it, because they often do musical numbers and his style of music works well with having these brassy orchestra tracks.
More and more shows seem to be going with the CSI route for their opening songs, too. Picking a licensed song that you feel fits the “theme” of the show costs less than having somebody think up something original. It’s rare to see live action shows that have their own opening songs these days. I like how It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia parodies this throughout their show by using public domain / stock music that everyone knows but doesn’t know the name of. It’s pretty clever.